After sharing my “Learning to Accept a Messy Faith” post, I had the opportunity to converse with friends about some of the complex nuances I had shared regarding my faith journey. In the post, I wrote about some of the struggles I have encountered in my own faith walk, including comparison, doubt, and lack of confidence. In hindsight, fear is really the underlying theme behind my struggles. Fear that my faith is not adequately strong, that doubt could destroy my faith, that my confidence is misplaced and I might miss my calling from God. As I was getting lost in thought regarding these fears, I began to receive some feedback on my post.
The first feedback I receive on any post is from Wendi. As she read my draft, she wrote a gentle reminder, “Even if we miss the first call from God, He’s not going to give up on us or His plan. He will intervene again, and again, and again…until we hear His call.” I have read her comment several times as I processed my fear. At the heart of my fear is the question: Is my fear truly bigger than God? To which I find myself consistently answering, no, of course not.
This belief in God’s willingness to not give up on us was brought to mind in a game I played with my kids this past weekend. In the midst of the game, I experienced a moment where I had to pause and laugh as I thought to myself, thank goodness God does not act like my preschooler. We were playing “hide-the-toy,” taking turns hiding a variety of toys and then wandering the house to find them. We were about 5 minutes into a round where my four year old daughter was the “hider,” her brother and I had found all but one of the toys. Up to that point, our seeking skills were not actually that impressive, many of the toys had been “hiding” in plain sight: sitting on top of the couch, three crammed together in a partially opened box, lying in the middle of the floor. Anyway, you get the idea, her “hiding” was not the trickiest. However, we could not find the last toy, ANYWHERE.
She laughed and laughed as we looked, thrilled to have finally stumped us.
Finally, her brother and I sat down and said, “Okay, we give up, give us a hint.”
She exclaimed, “I know exactly where it is! It is over there behind the couch!”
I walked over and looked behind the couch, no toy.
Through giggles, she paused, “Oh. Um, maybe it is over there,” pointing vaguely to a toy bucket on the other side of the room.
I looked, no toy.
She laughed again, harder this time, her giggles contagious, despite the growing frustration over our wild goose chase search.
“Well,” I laughed, “Did you forget where it is?”
“No!” she replied adamantly, “I know exactly where it is.” She then proceeded to join us in the search, surprised by the new twist of an actually lost toy.
At some point, she and her brother gave up, having gotten distracted by a puzzle that had slipped off of the shelf in the searching chaos. I was the one who eventually found the toy. “Here it is!” I shouted proudly, ready for my round of applause, or at least an excited reaction.
But, instead, my daughter looked up at me, now occupied entirely by the puzzle, and replied matter of factly, “Oh, ok, your turn to hide it.”
This is when I thought to myself, this game stinks. I literally looked all over the house for hidden toys, aided solely on random, vague clues from a four year old, was laughed at, forgotten about, and then after finally finding the lost toy…nothing. In case you are wondering, I did not take my turn to hide the toy. The game was over.
Later, as I reflected on the game, I was struck by some of the similarities the game had to what I was trying to articulate about my faith journey. Especially recently, as I’ve faced several major life transitions, I have been a little bit stuck in fear and questions over what is supposed to happen next. And, the more I thought about it, the more I realized, maybe I have been treating life as if God was “hiding the next step,” or even worse, that maybe He didn’t actually have any idea what the next step was supposed to be. Was my fear causing me to envision God pointing me towards what I thought was the next step, only to laugh if I didn’t find it and instead wandered around searching? Was my fear based on the idea that maybe He would provide me with such an ambiguous or misleading clue that I would miss the next step completely and He would give up and leave me to look in all of the wrong places, alone? Was my perception that if I finally found my right next step, He wouldn’t even care? It is interesting that in my struggles, doubts, and fears, I allowed God to take on the characteristics of a preschooler playing a game of hide-the-toy, rather than trusting that He would respond with more patience and kindness than even the most caring adult.
When I think about my faith journey now, my fear of the unknown is still big; and that fear is likely still causing me to trap my perception of God into a role far smaller than He is. However, as I reflect back on the comment from Wendi, “He’s not going to give up on us or His plan,” I feel a bit more comforted. I can picture if He was in a hide-the-toy game with me, He would have been walking right along with me, nudging me towards the correct location, reminding me at each wrong spot that the game was not over. He wouldn’t have laughed, started a different game with someone else, and left me to search on my own.
So, as I continue to navigate my faith, I am going to remind myself that God is good and God is good at being God. And, my wanderings, doubts, and decisions are not strong enough to make Him be anything less. I am grateful for a God that will be patient with me as I walk through this process of learning to accept a messy faith.
Jessica is a wife, mom, school social worker, and aspiring writer. She is co-author of the blog The Unexpected Ever Afters.
Photo Credit: personal photo